TG Garage: can a Toyota bZ4X ever be considered a cool car to own?
It sounds oxymoronic to say that the Toyota bZ4X has been met with startling amounts of ambivalence, but it’s one of those cars that seems to have appeared, been briefly noted and then fallen out of the collective consciousness pretty much immediately. Why? Well, I think a lot of people were expecting a bit more from Toyota. After being late to the all-electric party, some of us were hoping for a punchier prospect; Toyota brought us the mainstream hybrid - the Prius - so as business it has plenty of experience when it comes to electrification.
But, and it’s a big but, a nice-enough-looking SUV with a word-salad name (bZ for ‘beyond Zero’ including weird capitalisation, 4 as a size differentiator, and X for crossover), mildly disappointing real-world range and some other immediate issues meant it ducked below the parapet for most.
One of the reasons was the fact that due to some sort of manufacturing fault the wheels were apparently literally prone to falling off this wagon, leading to a bit of a stop/start launch process. That’s all fixed now. Then there was the fact that the bZ4X didn’t seem to have a serious identity - there wasn’t much of a USP to grab hold of. Apart from the fact that it had actual off-road capability - and the modes to prove it - even in bare front-wheel drive format. But then you looked at the range and wondered if that was something you’d be prepared to risk - plenty of people got hold of the ‘yota and found that getting even pared-back expectation from the range was nigh-on impossible.
And yet… there’s something about it that likely doesn’t deserve the dismissal. It’s based on the same e-TNGA platform as the Subaru Solterra, and is genuinely good off-road even on normal tyres. Toyota has updated to the incredibly conservative software to use up some more of the battery buffer for actual use (the safety zones of charging), and the rest of it is up to plenty of jobs: it’s comfy for five people, has a large boot and looks fairly rugged. The big black plastic arches aren’t to everyone’s taste, but I think they work.
So we’ve got one in for a bit. The TG Garage version is a dual-motor, and therefore all-wheel drive, top-spec ‘Vision’, weighing in at under £55k. Which is undoubtedly an issue since 55k can now buy you some very nice pure electric cars in the same weight class. But is this a car that’s as easily dismissed as it seems to be? Can a Toyota bZ4X ever be considered a cool thing to own? Well, we’re about to find out. In the first 1,200 miles I’ve seen peaks of 140kW on a public charger (from a max 150), covered plenty of ground and found it to be an amiable companion, churning out roughly 3.6 miles per kWh efficiency. Which is fine. And the dog seems to love it - which always counts. Oh, and I might have some mild … uh… ‘plans’ afoot. But let’s keep that between us, shall we?
Thanks to Torque of Revolution